A reader wrote in:
Question for Matt & Jess: I am 14 (15 in a few months) and I am going to be a freshman. The boy I like is 13 and going to be in 8th grade. We will both be in high school together because our school doesn’t have a middle school, but is 2 years still too much of an age difference? Because soon I will be 15 and him still 13. I want to be sure that it’s appropriate. Thanks. :)
— Female blog visitor, July 2014
JESS: When it comes to dating and relationships, the level of maturity and compatibility can be more important factors than age itself. Some people may not approve of your relationship, or think that the younger guy is in the relationship because ‘it’s cool to be dating an older girl’. The relationship is between you and your boyfriend, so if both of you share similar views (the most important one being that both of you are considerate and respectful to each other) and are committed to making things work out, that ultimately is what matters. Best wishes!
MATT: I agree with everything Jess said, but let me add another thought. Because of the age difference, you should consider what both families think. That doesn’t matter as much for experienced adults, but you guys are young enough to have your parents put large obstacles in your way, so it’s best to get both sets of parents on board first.
A reader wrote in:
Question for Matt & Jess: Last year I was really good friends with a guy. We were almost like brother and sister (that’s what people told me). We always would joke around and teased each other, but I knew he cared about me. People always said that we would be a good couple, and I started to like him a little. But then, people would always say things and it got really annoying.
I told him that I liked him during the summer but that I didn’t anymore. Now, this year, I only have one class with him. He talked to me during the first week of school, but then he became really distant. Now, I never talk to him anymore, but I always catch myself staring at him during class. I don’t like him, but I still care about him. Sometimes when I’m alone, I get really emotional because I really miss him and the way we used to be. He was like my best friend. Now, I feel like he purposely ignores me and maybe hates me, but I don’t know why.
Now, he’s having this huge party that everyone I know was invited to. Even my best friend who never talks to him, was invited, but I wasn’t. My friends tried a couple times to get me an invitation, but it didn’t work. I act like I don’t care anymore, but I’m always jealous of his friendships he has with other girls and not me. But I don’t want to act too desperate. I text him, and he purposely doesn’t reply, and I know he’s read the text, because it says so. I want him to be my friend again! I’m so upset about this, and I have no idea how to just get him to even say hi to me anymore.
— Female blog visitor, Feb 15, 2014
MATT: “I used to like you but now I don’t but I want to be friends” is not a place a boy or a man wants to be if he was ever interested. If this boy was interested at once time, he lost interest because of this complex message. If he was never interested, now he has all the excuse he needs not to change his mind.
It seems like one of two things can be true of you. Either you are still interested in him and telling yourself you’re not, or else you just want to be forgiven because you think you messed it up. In case it’s the second one, I’ll help. You’re young, and mistakes happen, and that’s okay. On behalf of boys everywhere, I forgive you.
Notes on the boy’s behavior: if he doesn’t respond to multiple text messages, that is very unfriendly. Not inviting you to a party is a pretty clear signal also. He does not want to be your friend right now. Probably the whole situation is too complicated for him and he doesn’t want to deal with it. His strategy is called being “passive-aggressive,” which means showing anger and negativity by neglecting people or failing to do what you should do. Who needs a passive-aggressive person to deal with? I don’t. You don’t either. It would be possible to analyze him endlessly, but what for? It’s not worth it.
I remember a conversation from the 1990s comedy show Seinfeld, about the neighbor, Newman, whom Jerry Seinfeld hates.
Kramer: “Maybe there’s more to him than meets the eye?”
Jerry: “No. There’s less.”
Final note: you are young, and there are a lot of boys for you to meet before you settle down. The chances are you won’t meet the right one in middle or high school anyway. Concentrate on school work and hobbies. Looking for a relationship does not always result in a good one. Being a well-rounded, confident person helps more.
JESS: “But I don’t want to act too desperate” — this is indeed a very important point that will work to your favor (whether for now or in the long run). When you are less desperate for attention or validation from others, you will tend to put your attention elsewhere on things that interest you or matter to you. This helps develop a healthy sense of self-esteem as you explore your own self-identity, so that your personality and life do not become defined solely by your relationships.
I agree with Matt that it is not very polite to “not reply” text or email messages. In my opinion, a short, sincere message would still be more respectful than giving no answer at all. Your friend makes it clear that he wants some distance from you by not inviting you to the party (where even girls who didn’t talk to him were invited), while continuing to have friendships with other girls.
I think mutual respect is a very important thing in any kind of human relationship. It would probably be much more worth your time and energy to focus on the friends in your life who do appreciate your friendship, and want to spend time with you. The longer you continue to “act like you don’t care,” when you actually do, the more you are going to torment yourself by getting jealous of your guy friend talking to other girls but not you, etc.
If you make it clear to your guy friend that you would like to stay friends, but he does not feel the same (for whatever reason — you won’t know if he doesn’t express his thoughts on the matter), eventually it’ll be his loss for not appreciating your caring friendship.
WHEN IS A GIRL A SLUT?
I ‘m discussing the word “slut” in here (it doesn’t appear in my writing for Teen Guide) because it is one of the most common terms thrown around by teenagers these days. The term slut is very old, going back at least as far as Shakespeare’s time, when it originally just meant “young girl.” Now it means “a girl who isn’t picky about sexual partners.” And it is a common insult word just used to make girls feel bad. In fact, it’s pretty common to claim a girl is sexually active when she isn’t, just to hurt her feelings. It’s so common, in fact, that you might as well apply the standard of the U.S. courts to any girl accused. Slut? Innocent until proven guilty.
I don’t think the issue in being picky about sexual partners is a moral issue. I think it’s a health issue. Physical health is endangered by multiple sexual partners for two reasons. One is the significant risk of sexually transmitted disease. The other is the significant risk of pregnancy, even with the pill (if you forget to take it) or condoms (they sometimes break). Emotional health is endangered by worsening the feelings of low-self esteem or loneliness that usually cause a girl to seek out sex without love. I would recommend counseling or a doctor’s help for a girl in that situation.
So my answer to “when is a girl a slut?” is really — NEVER. It’s a nasty expression, and I would never apply it to a young person. I might apply it to an adult woman who used sex to destroy people’s lives, breaking up relationships or marriages to serve her own interests, but I don’t think the word should be used for girls. My reasons can be summarized as follows.
First — most girls to whom the term is applied have not done anything sexual.
Second — a girl who has sex in an unhealthy way is to be pitied, and helped, rather than treated cruelly.
IF A GIRL DRESSES SEXY, DOES THAT MEAN SHE IS LOOKING FOR SEX?
I can’t get into the minds of girls, but I’d have to say that varies. Girls like to wear the latest fashions, and often, the fashion industry encourages sexy looks for teenage girls, and even for tweens (horrifying most adults like me). Girls embrace the sexy clothes because they want to feel grown up, to fit in, or to feel different from their parents. I would say that a girl who dresses in sexy clothes is probably not looking for sex most of the time. She is more likely trying to send a signal to other girls that she is fashionable, can afford sexy designer clothes, or is grown up. (She may also be dressing like her mother — at least, I see that in Brooklyn a lot.) Whatever her intentions, boys are likely to think she is looking for sex, and they will tend to treat her differently because of it. Boys, the girl who is best for you is the one you can talk to, whatever she is wearing.
(from December 22, 2012)
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Question for Matt & Jess:
They say that sex for the first time (as a girl) is painful, is it true ? And if so, is there a way to avoid the pain?
— 15 year-old Teen Guide: Q&A blog visitor
MATT: A girl’s hymen is a tissue that covers the vagina during childhood. An intact hymen — not torn, broken, or removed — has been a common test of virginity worldwide. But this probably should not be so. There are many ways a hymen can be broken or removed besides being penetrated by a penis. It can be torn or broken during athletics. In some cases it can be stretched out of the way to allow the penis to enter the vagina (although this is very unusual). It can definitely be removed by a doctor, probably inside the doctor’s office, in a very minor procedure.
The most likely cause of pain during first sexual intercourse is the breaking of the hymen. But this doesn’t always hurt. For some girls/women, it’s nothing but a pinprick feeling. If you have a very thick hymen, breaking it might hurt some, but once it’s done, it’s done, and if the sexual encounter was a good decision, then the momentary pain won’t be a lingering source of worry.
Another possible source of discomfort can be the fact that your vagina is inexperienced with sex, and lacks the flexibility of a sexual active female’s vagina. In other words, it may be “too tight” and you may get some rubbing feelings or rash. If your partner forces his way in without waiting for your vagina to lubricate properly, this could happen. The rubbing, rash, and tightness go away with more frequent sex.
There are a few rare medical conditions that can cause pain during intercourse, for male or for female, but only a doctor can detect these. If you find that you have pain during sex after the first few times, talk to a gynecologist.
JESS: I’ll always remember how one of my (girl) friends described her first sexual experience. She said that it was really her “first time — with the blood and pain and everything.”
I also remember that some friends described it in a totally different way (one said that she was “prepared beforehand, so it didn’t hurt much” — another said it was great because she waited till she was “ready and comfortable with her boyfriend”).
As Matt says in his answer, sex for the first time (as a girl) can be painful if your hymen is still intact, or if you’re inexperienced and your partner penetrates you without getting your body comfortable and relaxed first [when a female is ready for sexual intercourse, her body is aroused and she gets “wet” (versus a male who gets “hard” when he is aroused)].
There are a couple of general ways to avoid or reduce the pain of first time sex for a female.
(1) By Yourself: You can explore your own body first, by sliding up a finger first, then two. I personally like this option because I’d like to get to know my own body first (before exploring with someone else).
Don’t just “shove your finger right in” because being rough right from the start isn’t going to help. Make sure your fingernails are short and that your fingers/fingernails are clean.
Gently explore as you get more aroused (you can switch between touching your clitoris while the other explores your vagina). It’s okay if only the tip of your finger may enter, at first. You might feel some resistance, but not so much that you feel pain, for a couple seconds, as you continue exploring. Over time, slowly work your way up to three fingers, or an object of equivalent size. This can take a week or less, or several months. It all depends on how elastic your hymen is and how relaxed and flexible your pelvic and vaginal muscles are.
(2) With a Trusted Partner: You can explore with your partner if it’s somebody you trust and who respects you. Good communication is essential, as you need to inform your partner if they are using too much pressure or going too fast.
The guy needs to go slowly and be very gentle, even though they might “feel” they must do it in an eager and rough way. When you are comfortable with your sexual partner, your muscles will be more relaxed, and you’ll be more ready for sex. You and your partner can have a bottle of lube on standby too, as it helps make penetration smoother.
Communication really is essential — if you discuss certain things beforehand (such as type of birth control; which activities you or your partner are not into for the time being), this will help you be more relaxed and less tense during first sexual intercourse. It also helps if you think about why you want to have sex for the first time with this person, so that you are more aware of some of the feelings or situations you might have to deal with later as a result of your first sexual encounter.
(from December 9, 2012)
* Matt’s answers are featured first — Jess will respond soon.
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MATT: Here are some questions from a female reader in the UK. As per my policy, I don’t respond directly — can’t give personal advice for legal reasons — but I am pleased to offer general responses for all readers. The reader’s words are in bold.
Q. How does sex work?
Matt: I’m sure my buddy Jess would agree that sex involves both body and mind. Your body drives you toward sex for various reasons, but it’s your personality that determines the timing and frequency you are comfortable with as well as the partners you desire. You may want sex (or agree to it when you don’t really want it) because of loneliness, boredom, need for emotional support, or just the influence of your hormones (the body chemicals associated with growth and development and sexuality). As I said in Teen Guide, casual sex is risky because deeper attachments often form when they aren’t intentional, and when the partner isn’t suitable in the long-term. So there is a disconnect between when you want to have sex and when it’s good for you. Be careful! Sex always has consequences (good or bad). It’s pleasurable, but it isn’t just for pleasure.
Q. At what stage in your life do you feel love for the other sex?
Matt: That depends upon your definition of love. In my view, love is the result of a mature, complex interaction between people, but you can believe yourself to be in love when you are very young. Sometimes that works out, but you’re lucky if it does. Usually it doesn’t. Connections that are actually temporary at best often seem permanent because of the intensity of your feelings when you’re younger. Later in life, you’ll decide it wasn’t love after all, and question the decisions you made.
If you are very young now, you won’t believe me, and that’s okay. What you are feeling probably seems like it’s what you were meant to feel for the person you are meant to be with. Chances are it’s not, though. There’s a basis for your feelings, but the rest is because of your stage of life, physical and emotional. We older people would like to be able to feel a young person’s passion and can’t, but we also cherish the kind of love that we can feel, that comes from deep commitment, acceptance, and security.
Q. How do I control my feelings for the opposite sex?
Matt: Write them down. Keep a journal or a diary, and don’t share it with anyone. Also, use a lot of physical energy. Play sports. Get exercise. Volunteer. Get a job. Meet and spend time with a lot of people. This will diminish the power of overly strong attachments.
Q. At what age do the feelings tend to calm at?
Matt: As a male, I was worst between 16-19, I didn’t calm down until my mid-20s, and even in my late 20s, I was still capable of getting emotional in a misguided way. Getting married calmed me down most. Now that someone returns my feelings, I don’t feel so needy, and my wife and I just take care of each other.
Your feelings will probably calm when you have more experience of relationships, and when you outgrow the hormone surges of your teenage years.
Q. How do I know if it’s the right time to have sex? What’s the first time like? How do you know if the feelings aren’t just lust?
Matt: There’s nothing to say here that wasn’t said better in Teen Guide. Here’s a short version of my point of view. Sex goes with strong compatibility and commitment and is best saved for a mature version of yourself. The first time is not usually all it’s expected to be. It’s over quickly and you will probably think or even say, “Was that it?” You know the feelings aren’t just lust if you can talk for hours and accept each other’s weaknesses and private feelings.
I hope this all helps.
— originally posted at Matt’s website
(from 30 June 2012)
This was a question Jess received via Facebook:
Q. As a brand-new single father to a teen boy, I sure hope you’re not going to encourage kids to have sex. (I am in no way interested in being a grandparent at 45!)
Jess: Nope, the tone is decidedly balanced/educational (there is no good reason to “encourage” kids to have sex — at the same time, it is unrealistic to expect teens to be “abstinent”). The aim of Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships was to provide comprehensive and honest advice and facts, for teenagers to make a well-informed and educated decision with regards to love and relationships :)